An anonymous benefactor sent us another little treat in the post – the latest reconstruction of this story, complete with very impressive CGI.
Sue: Oh, The Wheel in Space! I guess this must be a good one if you named the experiment after it.
Me: Er, well…
The story begins with the TARDIS breaking down on a deserted spaceship called the Silver Carrier. The Doctor removes the Time Vector Generator and it transforms his time machine into a regular police telephone box.
Sue: That’s a very good anti-theft device.
Me: It’s preposterous! You can’t just turn the TARDIS into an empty box! Where does the rest of it go? It’s sounds like magic to me.
Sue: Neil, it’s a police box that flies through time and space. Where do you want to draw the line?
The Doctor offers Jamie a sweet to calm him down; he’s still visibly upset about leaving Victoria behind.
Sue: I used to have craving for lemon sherbet when I was pregnant. Hang on a minute, I thought the Doctor ate Jelly Babies?
We spend large portions of this episode watching a Servo Robot walking up and down a corridor.
Sue: This CGI robot looks great. I can’t imagine what this would be like with just the usual stills. Random bleeping and humming for minutes on end, probably. This is almost watchable.
The Doctor and Jamie are a little peckish, but thankfully help is at hand.
Sue: Oh, a food machine! I’ve missed them. Hang on. Cabbage? Who in their right mind asks for cabbage?
As Jamie and the Doctor begin to chow down, the Servo Robot releases some mysterious white spheres into space.
Sue: Oooh, Yeti spheres! Is this the final showdown between the Doctor and that Intelligence thing?
When the Servo Robot starts to act aggressively towards our heroes, Jamie manages to disable it.
Sue: They should do that to all the villains – just throw a blanket over them. See, it works every time!
And then, after being cooped up in claustrophobic interior of the Silver Carrier for ages, we are suddenly deposited in the middle of a very busy space station.
Sue: Finally, it’s the International Base of the Week. Are there any accents they haven’t tried yet? Oh look. It’s Shirley from EastEnders.
The episode concludes with a vague threat but it’s too little, too late.
Sue: Well, that was strange. Did anything actually happen?
Sue: Is the attractive blonde the next companion? I bet you’d be happy if she was.
Me: Well, she does have a very nice nose.
Sue: If there’s one thing that sums up Doctor Who in the 1960s for me, it’s the sound of heavy feet clumping around on hard board floors. It’s really starting to annoy me now.
At one point, Jamie comes up with a pseudonym for the Doctor, who is sitting out the episode in bed.
Sue: Didn’t David Tennant’s Doctor call himself John Smith once? Damn, did I sound like a ming mong just then?
Me: Yes. And yes.
Sue: Is it just me or is this really boring? More boring than usual, I mean.
Me: No, it isn’t just you. I think I may have dozed off for a second back there.
Thankfully, I am fully conscious when Wendy Padbury makes her first appearance.
Sue: So, is Zoe the new assistant? Or is it Tanya? Or Gemma? The suspects are starting to stack up. Can the Doctor take all three with him? I vote for Gemma. She not only looks like Shirley from EastEnders, she doesn’t take any shit like her, too. She’d be an interesting addition to the crew. Zoe is tiny. Pretty, though. But that is a very unfortunate still of her (see right). I’m not even going to tell you what that suggests to me.
Me: She’s lovely. Wendy Padbury is the only Doctor Who actor that I had ever had the courage to speak to without sticking a microphone in their face first. I spent a very pleasant morning chain-smoking with her outside a hotel in Los Angeles, once. And I had enough self-control not to mention Doctor Who. Not once!
Sue gives me a suspicious look and then the episode concludes with the familiar figure of a Cyberman emerging from one of the white spheres.
Sue: I didn’t know that Cybermen were hatched from eggs. They must be really tiny. Like dolls.
Sue: It’s impossible to get a sense of scale. How big are these balls supposed to be? And how did they get through the hull in the first place? Still, at least it’s not the Yeti. That’s something, I guess.
After performing our obligatory real episode dance, we settle back to watch our first moving episode after an unbroken run of 13 recons. It feels wonderful.
Sue: That Cyberman in the ball looks like he’s trying to do the Tales of the Unexpected dance.
Meanwhile, two of the Wheel’s crew, Leo and Tanya, are conducting a bad office romance.
Sue: Get a room! Go and compare noses somewhere private!
When an engineer called Duggan (“He’s been in loads of things”) encounters a Cybermat for the very first time, his reaction is almost childlike.
Sue: He looks thrilled to see one. Does he think it’s a toy? Or a novelty hand-brush, perhaps? I don’t blame him. Who’d be scared of that?
Patrick Troughton is back and Sue breathes a sigh of relief.
Sue: Thank God for that. You really miss Troughton when he’s not around. Troughton shouldn’t be allowed to go on holiday – he’s too important.
Suddenly, Leo decides to berate Zoe for no readily apparent reason.
Sue: He doesn’t like Zoe because she doesn’t spend the whole day flirting with him. What a twat. Oh, hang on, this bloke is definitely famous.
Me: That’s Kevork Malikyan. He played a Greek student in Mind Your Language.
Sue: Is it okay to call that show racist or will we get into trouble for that as well?
Thankfully, before we can get into it, Nicol, who has pretended to ignore the episode up until now, suddenly decides to interject when Zoe starts reeling off her CV.
Nicol: It is highly unlikely that an astrophysicist would have studied pure mathematics. Pure mathematics is never what people assume it is. I think the writer has made a mistake.
Me: What? David Whittaker? Never!
Both Sue and Nicol love the Doctor’s classic line “logic merely enables one to be wrong with authority”, but it’s slim pickings.
Sue: It doesn’t look right when the Cybermen are sitting down in chairs. They should never be that comfortable.
When a phalanx of Cybermats emerge to take on Maximilian from Mind Your Language, Sue can see their practical applications.
Sue: Can we get some Cybermats in to clean our floors? They’d save so much time. And why is this guy scared to death of the Cybermats when the other bloke just wanted to play with them? It isn’t very consistent. You can’t have it both ways. Are they supposed to be scary or silly? Which is it? And why doesn’t he just stamp on them!
Me: The Cybermats evil ray beam has turned him into a gangster rapper! Instead of screaming “Noooooo!” he should be screaming “Yeah, Boyyyyyyzzz!”
Sue winces once again as the dialogue is obscured by the sound of actors crashing around the wooden set.
Sue: Why don’t they just take their shoes off? You never see their feet anyway and it would sound so much better.
Sue: The people who made the CGI astronauts are very big on Health and Safety. It’s good to see people lifting with their knees. Even when they don’t exist.
Incredibly, it’s taken her until episode four, but Sue finally comments on Michael Turner’s increasingly bizarre performance as the Wheel’s controller, Jarvis Bennett.
Sue: He’s the worst actor to appear in the series so far. He’s definitely the worst base commander so far, and I know what makes for a good base commander given the number I’ve seen lately. He’s useless. However, the women are coming out of this story well. They are clever and capable, which is more than you can say for the men on the base. The Doctor is pretty useless this week, too. What has he actually done so far? It’s William Hartnell all over again.
Jamie walks in on Zoe, just as she is recording some computations. Jamie apologises profusely.
Sue: It’s a bit like that time I walked in on you and ruined one of your podcasts.
Me: But with slightly less sexual tension.
Sue: I’ve just realised that these Cybermen look like they’re crying.
Sue appreciates how the Cybermens’ new design reflects their lost humanity, but she has to take it too far.
Sue: So what’s the hole under the mouth for? Do they poke their tongues through it? Do they dribble out of it?
As Bennett becomes even more insane (“His acting gets worse the crazier he gets, and that’s not easy”), the Wheel’s crew decide to monitor his brainwaves.
Sue: No wonder he is so paranoid – he has to walk around with a thing in his head that means anyone can take a look at his thought patterns. That would be really annoying. Does an alarm go off if he’s looking at pornography on an office computer?
The episode concludes with the Doctor rallying everyone against the invading Cybermen.
Sue: Finally! Now why couldn’t he have done that three episodes ago?
Sue: (Sung to the tune of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’) And the Wheel in Space goes on and on, on and on, on and on. The Wheel in Space goes on and on, all night long.
I think I’m losing Sue.
Zoe laments the fact that she has a mind like a machine.
Sue: She’s like a Pixie Spock.
And then, thanks to the Australian censors, we witness one of the most savage moments ever seen in Doctor Who.
Sue: Bloody hell! They are repeatedly banging that poor bloke’s head off the wall! That was brutal! Where the hell did that come from?
The tension increases further when the Wheel is threatened by a meteorite storm.
Sue: So, are these meteorites Cybermen eggs or what?
Me: What makes you say that?
Sue: They look like perfect spheres so I assume they must be the Cybermen. To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on any more.
And then, to the accompaniment of a very loud groan from Sue, Gemma is killed by a Cyberman.
Sue: Typical! Kill the strong woman, why don’t you! Sometimes I really hate this show.
When Jamie and Zoe are almost blasted to smithereens during their ill-timed spacewalk to the Silver Carrier, the Doctor is forced to admit that he is willing to sacrifice his companions for the greater good.
Sue: That’s a bit shocking. Do you think Jamie is aware of this?
When Bennett takes on a Cyberman, Sue isn’t impressed.
Sue: If he ran at him and rugby tackled him, he’d stand a pretty good chance. Giving the Cyberman a big hug is not going to work. Still, the Cyberman is just as bad. Why didn’t he just kill Bennett with his accordion instead of throwing him around like that? It’s not very efficient.
The Cybermen decide to do a quick check on the Wheel’s personnel records, just in case an arch-nemesis of theirs is on board. When a hypnotised crew-member struggles to remember the Doctor’s name, Sue waits for the inevitable punchline.
Sue: If Steven Moffat was writing this episode we would have had the Doctor Who? joke for sure. He wouldn’t have been able to resist it.
As this scene plays out for what seems like hours (“Are they going to go through everyone’s employment record?”), Sue becomes distracted by the decor.
Sue: It looks like the cast of Star Trek have been replaced by a collection of lava lamps.
And then the Doctor finally confronts the Cybermen. It’s only taken him six episodes.
Sue: Why don’t they just kill him? Why are they telling the Doctor what their ultimate plans are? They’ll be sitting down to discuss it over coffee, next.
The Cybermen finally stop fannying around and they decide to take the Wheel by force. They do this by walking from their ship to the Wheel. And when I say walk, I mean walk.
Sue: Oh dear. That looks terrible. Look at them flapping their arms around like chickens. That is not good.
The Cybermen attempt to gain entry through the Wheel’s loading bay, but Jamie manages to eject them back into the cold vacuum of space.
Sue: This is just like the end of Alien. If the end of Alien was rubbish. Even the music is the same. And the spacesuits are similar, too.
Me: Well, it’s entirely probably that Ridley Scott saw this.
Sue: It would be an excellent template for how not to do it.
With the threat disposed of, things get back to normal on the Wheel. This mainly involves Leo and Tanya making eyes at each other as they touch each other inappropriately.
Sue: There should be rules against that kind of thing. We work together and you don’t see us carrying on like that.
Me: More’s the pity.
Sue: Why can’t they take David Ginola with them as the new companion? He’d be nice eye candy for the ladies.
Me: Isn’t Jamie enough for you, love?
Sue: He’s just a boy.
Me: You do know that the actor playing Enrico is blacked up, don’t you? He’ll go on to play the notorious serial killer, Donald Neilson. Just so you know.
Sue: Oh second thoughts, let’s take Zoe instead.
When the Doctor discovers Zoe hiding in a chest inside the TARDIS, he decides to show her what she might be up against if she decides to join him on his adventures.
Sue: Oh, it’s the Daleks again. I knew it wouldn’t take long before we saw them again. I bet the kid’s were pleased. Hang on a minute, haven’t we seen this before?
Me: Yes, we have to watch The Evil of the Daleks again now. The repeat is woven into the very fabric of the programme, which means we really should watch it again.
Sue: Is the repeat all reconstructions as well?
Me: No, the repeat exists. I just thought I’d show you the original transmission as a series of recons and I’d save the moving ones for later. (beat) Of course it doesn’t exist!
Sue: Well, what would Rob Shearman do?
Me: He skipped it.
Sue: We should probably watch it, then.
Me: Then you’re watching it on your own. I’ll be upstairs watching Colony in Space if you want me.
Sue: That was dreadful. It was flabby, drawn-out rubbish. I’m really sick of that type of story now. That was easily Troughton’s worst one so far. Please tell me the next season does something a bit different. Please?